20 June 2011

The Lost Cyclist; David Herlihy

The Lost Cyclist:  The epic tale of an American adventurer and his mysterious disappearanceThe Lost Cyclist: The epic tale of an American adventurer and his mysterious disappearance by David V. Herlihy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book had potential to be a 4 or even 5 star book, but the author made some unfortunate odd choices that lowered the final rating.

Set in the later 1800s, this is the story of the early days of cycling. Our hero, Lenz, starts on one of those odd-looking (to us) big wheels, slowly moving to the "safety" (what we think of as the normal bike). We learn a lot about those early bikes, and it's really quite impressive how the early riders raced and took long trips over not-well-paved roads. The development of biking and cycling clubs is also covered and readers can see how the strength and stamina of those riders surprised and impressed non-riders.

We then move to the "globe-girdling" rides - and this is where the book lost me. Rather than gloss over the previous girdling riders and concentrate on Lenz' adventures in America and Asia, the author alternates chapters of the Allen/Sachtelben ride and Lenz' ride. Why spend so much time on another circumnavigation when the focus of the book is supposed to be Frank Lenz? The decision to speed through Lenz' ride in India and Persia, and go rather quickly through Burma, is also strange.

After Lenz disappears, the book's focus sharpens. The battles between Sachtelben and the American consul, the Turkish officials and the locals over whodunnit are interesting to follow, but more could have been done about why the tensions between the Kurds/Turks and Armenians existed (there is a gloss of "religious tensions" between Muslims and Christians, but additional explanation would have been good). The description of the Armenian massacre will ensure that many Turkish readers will be upset (if they read it at all).

Another, more minor issue was the author's translating some of the place names and not others. Peking, for example, is never Beijing, but other cities in China are given both the name they were known by then and the name we currently use (the same for Persia/Iran).

No comments:

Post a Comment